Newly available DNA evidence, which did not match the defendant and which was sufficient to have caused at least one juror to doubt defendant’s guilt, requires reversal of 1986 conviction. In July 1985 a woman was found stabbed to death in her Monterey home. Two jail informants reported Sagin confessed to the killing. However, there was no physical evidence tying Sagin to the murder scene. Conflicting circumstantial evidence on both sides placed him either at or near the murder scene, or alternately, in a completely different county. Sagin’s conviction of first degree murder with special circumstances was affirmed on appeal. In 2010, DNA test results showed scrapings taken from underneath the victim’s fingernails contained DNA from an unknown male. None of the DNA collected from the crime scene matched Sagin. His habeas petition which was denied in superior court was refiled in the Court of Appeal. Held: Petition granted. Penal Code section 1473, subdivision (b)(3)(A) provides that a habeas writ should issue when new, credible, material evidence is presented without substantial delay and which is of such decisive force and value that it would have likely changed the outcome at trial. The statute creates a sliding scale, and in a case where the trial was close, the new evidence need not point so conclusively to innocence to tip the scales in favor of the petitioner. Here, the case was close and evidence of Sagin’s guilt was circumstantial and conflicting. While the new evidence does not prove Sagin was not at the crime scene, it is powerful evidence the victim was killed by someone other than Sagin. It was sufficient to have caused at least one juror to have maintained a reasonable doubt of his guilt, requiring reversal.
The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: https://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/archive/H044767.PDF